- The death of a close friend or family member.
- The reception of some very unwelcome news (e.g. job loss, health diagnosis).
- When a birthday comes and they begin to think that they have already lived most of their time on earth.
- When a child gets married, goes to college, or enters a new phase of school (e.g. Jr. High, Sr. High, etc).
- When they realize that their dreams of the high paying job with all the perks that go with it will not come true.
These checkpoints, like spots on a map, remind us that life on this earth is not all there is. Our destination is ultimately Christlikeness with Him in Heaven. These checkpoints confront us with the reality that fewer things matter and they remind us that the few things that do matter, matter more. So, how do you and I steward opportunities like this and help our counselees do the same?
Certainly we can agree that these opportunities should not be wasted, right? So, how is it that these opportunities can be used for the Glory of God and the progress of the gospel? What follows is far from comprehensive, but Lord willing it will be a help to many of you, like me, who got a few checkpoints this year.
#1. Rather than sulk in self pity commit to “redeeming the time”
Psalm 90:12 instructs us to number or days so we may present a heart of wisdom while Eph 5:15 says that we must make the most of your time because the days are evil. Sometimes when people are confronted with these checkpoints they run, hide, and go into a shell. The problem with that approach is that is the exact opposite of what we should do.
All human life is short – we are here today and gone tomorrow. So our time, whatever amount we have, must be lived with purpose and meaning. Every believer is a representative of God. Therefore, help your counselees to use the checkpoint to move forward – to be more committed, to be more focused, to be more passionate about the things of the Lord. Neighbors need to hear the gospel, children need to be taught truth, friends need to be discipled and encouraged, and the Lord should be magnified in your speech and actions. Don’t sulk in self pity.
#2. Rather than become bitter and angry confess your heart to the Lord and commit to trust him.
For those that get shocking checkpoints – the lost job, the cancer diagnosis, the tragedy in the family – be careful. In Eph 4:32 we are told to put off all anger and all bitterness. It is easy to get upset at the Lord during these checkpoints. But I want to encourage us to follow the pattern in the Psalms or in Habakkuk where shocking news or challenging circumstances are followed by running to the Lord. Rather than run away from him in anger or bitterness, the biblical authors ran to the Lord and then chose to trust him (read the prayer in Habakkuk 3). We do not always understand the ways of the Lord and the reasons he chooses to do what he does. However, we can trust in a God who is good and in a God who loves us and in a God who will use whatever trouble may come to bring him glory and make us like Christ.
#3. Rather than believe you are getting the “raw end of the deal” believe that God has already been better to you than you deserve.
These checkpoints in life encourage some folks to believe that they were somehow and in some way mistreated by the Lord. They got the raw end of the deal. If only they were faster, stronger, more coordinated, quicker, smarter, better looking, then their dreams could have come true. But as it is God has not given them those things. That is where Ephesians 1-3 come in. God has poured out on you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. God’s grace reached down to you and plucked you from the pit. God sent his Spirit to be a seal on his promises. If we get nothing other than the gospel we have gotten far more than we deserve. The checkpoints may remind us that there are some pleasures of life that we might never experience, but they also should push us to remember that a glorious eternity is yet in store.
#4. Rather than view this life as having the “best” remember that in the life to come you will be like Jesus for you will see him as he is.
We, like our counselees, can also be tempted to think that our best days and our best memories are in the here and now. If only we had the perfect vacation, if only we had the chance to see ________ (Paris, Tokyo, the Grand Canyon), if only we could see our kids grown up, then our life would be fulfilled. We need to help our counselees remember that the best will come when our current bodies are replaced with heavenly ones, when our sin is forever removed and we are like our savior Jesus, and where we will enjoy the light of his radiance rather than our current sun. We may ask the Lord to grant us the privilege of raising children, walking our daughters down the aisle, or meeting a grandchild, but we are mistaken if we believe these things are the “best.” Checkpoints point us forward to a future with our savior.
#5. Remember that sometimes the Lord asks you to remember him when you have blessings overflowing and he asks you to trust him when you despair even of life.
While all the checkpoints bring challenges there are others that bring fear. If given the choice many of us would rather drop dead from a heart attack then go through the suffering of a disease that slowly kills us. For some believers, the thought of dying of cancer is far easier to handle than the thought of living with it. Dying at least represents “being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” The living with cancer means surgery, doctor visits, chemo, radiation, sickness, pain, and hardship. Allow these thoughts to linger and you will despair of life. Paul reminds us that there was a time in his own life where he despaired of his existence. Life was so hard and so bad that death seemed not only imminent but better. Yet in 2 Cor 1:8-11 Paul reminds us all that this hardship had a purpose – to trust in God! None of us particular enjoys the thought to trusting God in the midst of great suffering – we would rather trust God in the midst of blessing! Sometimes, however, God calls us to suffer and with the call to suffering comes the call to trust him and to demonstrate his great power amidst our great weakness.
There are, of course, many other things that can be said. But Lord willing I hope that this may help us deal with our own checkpoints and help others deal with theirs. We would love to hear your comments on our blog how you stewarded your own “checkpoints.”